US Open Threepeat
by Michael A. Harvey
Laureen Baldovi and Robert Royston accomplished what is the dream of all competitors everywhere: a "Threepeat." Not only did they win the biggest, toughest, and most prestigious title once, not only did they win it three times, but they have now won the title three consecutive times. Is a "Grand Slam" thinkable?
Dancing to Elvis Presleys version of "Fever" with slow writhing movements matching accents in the music, they interspersed powerful spins and surprises of interpretive texture which dazzled the audience. A conspicuously absent Mario Robau was sorely missed, and Robert Cordoba was performing with a new partner of less than a month, factors which might have given the defending Champions an easy road to victory. But stunning routines performed by the runners-up Sharlot (wearing a jacket with tails) and Wayne Bott and third place finishers Kellese (fit and svelte) and Brent Key gave Baldovi and Royston all the challenge they could handle. Both the Botts and the Keys grabbed a large portion of the audiences favor with winning caliber performances. The "bar has been raised" again this year!
Baldovi and Royston stole the show, however, by bringing to their act a grace and ease uncharacteristic of their past victories which came enhanced with great speed, power, and energy. In contrast, this year Royston seemed to lead multiple spins with the slightest of finger flicks. Baldovi seemed to fly through maneuvers with only a wisp of guidance. Both matched moves to music, connecting to the soul of their artistry. Her incredible "painted on" dress was accented more by his subdued, basic black, than by his matching, flashy sleeves. The Baldovi-Royston partnership this year did reflect the accomplishment of their past victories in that they both exuded the polish and confidence of great Champions. If what happens at the US Open is a harbinger of the future, will we be seeing more convention DJ music and competition routines based on slower tempos in 1998?
The biggest "buzzes" around this years convention included a third place finish in the Showcase division by Beverly Durand and Atlas Griffith who had one of the most talked about routines of the weekend. Gary Jobst and Kate Ford won with Keith Heisinger and Kate Berardino taking second. In a very close Classic division which Blake Hobby and Bill Cameron won, Michael and Mari Kiehm were crowd favorites and a well executed routine by Lisa Cortez and Christopher Joe also pushed the judges. In what appeared to be another tight race, Strictly Swing was won by Deanna Mollman and Sonny Watson over second place Sylvia Sykes and Ramiro Gonzalez, third place Marie and Steve Salazar, fourth place Lisa and Martin Parker, and fifth place Casey Lloyd and Eric Meyers.